I’ve always been fascinated by the legendary direct mail promotions and direct response ads that generated tens of millions of dollars back in the day.
But can we still learn from those examples?
In the modern digital world, do the principles that made those campaigns so successful still apply?
Today, I’m joined by legendary direct marketer Brian Kurtz.
Brian is the founder of Titans Marketing and has been a pioneer in direct response marketing for nearly 40 years.
As partner and executive vice president at publishing house Boardroom Inc., Brian was instrumental in growing to $150 million in revenue and becoming the state-of-the-art direct marketing and publishing company it is today.
He’s worked with (and closely studied) some of the most legendary copywriters of all time, including Gene Schwartz, Gary Bencivenga and others.
And as Brian explains, the principles these marketing legends used are timeless.
You can still use them today if you truly understand them — whether you’re writing sales-generating direct response copy, blog posts, white papers, case studies or B2B web copy.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
How did you get your start in direct-response copywriting?
Brian was an English major in college. In his senior year, he decided to become either a film critic, English professor or major league umpire. Didn’t become any of these.
Instead, he walked the streets of New York City, giving out resumes to publishing companies.
He met a publisher that handled royalties from plays and was hired on the spot. Six months later, he got a job at Boardroom (a newsletter and book publisher) as an in-house list manager.
The list is still the most important thing in any marketing campaign.
When he started, he learned the 40-40-20 rule: Success depends 40 percent on the list, 40 percent on the offer and 20 percent on the creative. (Brian later revised these percentages slightly.)
If you have a good list and good offer, you can throw almost any creative at it.
At the same time, the world’s best creative won’t sell if you send it to the wrong audience or make the wrong offer.
If you want feedback on your work, direct marketing is the place for you. Your audience tells you what works and what doesn’t with their wallets.
While the marketing landscape has changed a lot (with more channels and options), the fundamental principles still apply.
Too many newish copywriters believe that they can do great work by copying what others are doing—without understanding the principles. Thoughts?
If you want to make a lot of money in the world of direct marketing, you need to become a trusted advisor.
It’s not just about writing the copy.
In the 80s and 90s, marketing opportunities were finite. But now, the possibilities are unlimited.
But while the creative is different in each medium, the basic principles remain the same.
After all, human beings haven’t changed, and marketing is all about human behaviour.
Human beings haven’t changed. And marketing is all about human behaviour.
So copywriters still need direct marketing knowledge to succeed. You can learn from the masters who’ve come before.
Legendary copywriter Gary Halbert was obsessive about understanding his audience. How important is this today?
Understanding your audience is still the most important thing.
Copywriter Eugene Schwartz often chose to be paid in list names rather than cash, because having a list was more valuable to him.
You should be hands on with list research. You need to know whom you’re mailing so you can tailor your offer and creative to your list.
Where should younger copywriters go to improve what they do?
This goes back to Brian’s list of what it takes to be a great copywriter and where to start:
The seven fundamentals of a great copywriter:
- Insatiable curiosity
- Feedback loops
- Direct marketing knowledge
- A good portfolio.
These principles also apply to marketers, content marketers and content writers.
Where can people learn more about you and your books?
Brian’s website: www.briankurtz.net
You can find the legendary book Breakthrough Advertising on his site.
Other books by Brian Kurtz that were mentioned in this podcast:
Buy these books on these sites and get thousands of dollars’ worth of bonuses and resources you won’t get if you buy on Amazon.
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